74 TEEDICT OX INDIA 'This meeting of the citizens of Alivartirungare records its emphatic protest against the Child Marriage Bill, as it strikes at ilie very foundations of the Shastraic principles guiding the Hindu society, and regrets the unwarranted interference of legislatures in a matter purely affecting the life of the Hindus* The citizens of Alivartirungare were quite right; the Bill did strike at the roots of their religion. One would like to ask those who try to mix Christianity and Hinduism in, a general hotch- potch of cThe Universal Religion5 what they have to say about thai. It is as though a nineteenth-century legislator were to protest against a Bill abolishing witch-burning on the grounds that this was a custom that had the divine authority of the words of Christ. *But all these evil things were a long time ago,' the critic may answer, 'and anyway, they are now a thing of the past.* The critic would be utterly wrong. These evil things were not a long time ago; the Sarda Act was only passed in the last decade. As for their being a thing of the past, a mass of authorities could be quoted to show that they are nothing of the sort. Thus, a dis- tinguished friend of India, Sir Edward Blunt, asserts : 6 Reformers who have attacked the marriage customs have nearly always been defeated by the orthodox majority.. .&te Sarda Act has proved well-nigh ineffective.*1- I myself have stood in the Monkey Temple at Benares while streams of little girls, who could not have been more than twelve years old, were dragged towards the idols to implore the bless- ings' of fertility. Their faces were stamped with the memory of terrible things, and their bodies cring3d, as though in shame, because they had not yet fulfilled the divine duty of maternity. I have seen those same little girls in the Kali Temple at Calcutta, cutting off locks of their long black hair and twisting them round the branches of a sacred cactus, while the Brahmin priest mumbled a string of prayers to hasten the advent of pregnancy. A thing of the past ? . But even if it were a thing of the past in practice, which it is n,ot, it is very much a thing of the present in theory. The sacred texts, 1 Social Service in India, edited by Sir Edward Blunt (H.M. Stationery Office, 1988).